#78: Battersea Power Station – 11/02/2020

This is the first of three bonus stations that have as yet to be built – well to be precise, to be completed as construction started several years ago and commissioning isn’t expected until at least 2021/22. Nevertheless, I thought it right to draw attention to them as much work has already been done, though much still to do.

The Tfl website explains the plans for this Northern Line Extension, so no need to repeat what’s there, so this is more a walk around a building site. But still, it’s an interesting day out.

The Station

There’s some amusing media speculation on the final station name, and this LondonIST article speculates how the standard naming convention may not apply in this case. Should it be Battersea Power Station Station, or simply Battersea Power Station? Time will tell.

So other than showing some hoardings surrounding the building works, I was alas, unable to get a high enough vantage point to get some meaningful construction works shots of the site being built by Ferrovial Agroman Laing O’Rourke.

For those who are local to Battersea, you’ll have seen the area surrounding Battersea Power Station evolve into a mini construction city as the Grade II* listed building is redeveloped into luxury accommodation, along with new builds surrounding it. And despite being a building site, builders and the Battersea Power Station Development Company actively encourage visitors and have done much to achieve this through the provision of a carefully managed road infrastructure and by providing a regular free shuttle bus service from the site entrance into the heart of the site. You can of course walk through as well.

For those who don’t know the area, I’d highly recommend a visit as there are many points of interest to keep your attention.

Battersea Power Station – I’ve already touched on the area in my previous blog when I visited Battersea Park in July 2019, so I’ll focus on what’s changed and how the development corporation continues to encourage visitors to come and take a look. One example is through the sponsorship of four spectacular light installations. Alas, by the time you read this blog, they will have been dismantled, but I have no doubt there will be others to follow.

Talking Heads: – a striking artwork by Viktor Vicsek, and I’m struck by the scale of the exhibition as I approach the Riverside Walk, overlooking The Thames. There are two super-sized heads each with some 4,000 controllable LED’s which show different facial expressions which not only react to each other but to those walking past too.

Eternal Sundown: – a light installation by Mads Vegas consisting of an array of 160 coloured fluorescent tubes arranged around the Coaling Jetty under the shadow of the Power Station. The best time to have seen this would have been nighttime and from the north bank opposite the Power Station, but despite being there during the day, the intent and colour pallete is still evident. And it was here I chatted with James, the lighting technician who’s in charge of the displays and running safety checks following the deluge in the wake of Storm Ciara.

Nine Elms Lane

My walk sees me meandering along the A3205 from Queenstown Road (Battersea) station to Vauxhall Bridge and I stop in a few places to admire what I see. Here are a few of them:

Battersea Exchange Arches: – nothing spectacular other than some neon lights under the arches to draw you into the area which has now been redeveloped into a modern housing and business complex that has no life or soul. I take the picture of the place name more as a reminder of where I am, but it has a rather striking quality don’t you think?

The Duchess Belle: – this pub stands out opposite all the building works and no doubt serves the local community of those living in the adjacent tenement houses equally well as the building workers. Its window display catches my eye as it’s clearly promoting allegiances to four of the six nations in this year’s six nations rugby tournament.

New Covent Garden Market: – unlike the old Covent Garden which is a delightful tourist destination, the new one is a hidden and inhospitable complex which offered little other than a walk along its service road. Maybe if I arrived at 4 in the morning instead, I’d be drawn into the hustle and bustle of the fruit & veg and floral merchants which would have provided a different atmosphere, but as it’s early afternoon, all the traders have gone. Maybe I’ll return another day and forgo my sleep.

Embassy of the United States of America: – Since 2018, the US Embassy moved from its Grosvenor Square site to NIne Elms, where the administration is housed in a new square building encased in screening sails. No doubt partly to obscure people looking in, and in part providing some sun shade to those inside.

I approached the embassy with a little trepidation as I thought the sight of a casual photographer may have attracted some unwanted attention.. So I decided to check out with the nearest armed police guard stationed on one corner, who helpfully confirmed it would be OK to take pics. So I did…

The wind was blowing the flag quite resplendently and I positioned myself to capture the right moment. And as I did, and waited for the flag to unfurl, I noticed a gentleman surreptitiously pointing his mobile phone in my direction. Each time I caught his gaze, he turned away, and I’m a little amused by this as if he’s an embassy employee, why not ask me what I’m doing.

Well his behaviour continues to entertain me so I make a deliberate effort to look at him, and at this point he starts stroking a nearby sapling but still pointing his mobile at me. As I move to walk on, he does too, ahead of me, so I decide to confront him and openly invite him to take my picture. Walking at his pace behind him, he avoids eye contact as he turns around and stops on some stepping stones in the middle of a water feature. I follow him and ask his intention to which he spun me a line that he’s a textures student interested in tree bark. I smile inwardly as this elderly gent seemed unfazed by my challenge, not the kind of behaviour I would have expected.

So if indeed I’ve been followed by an embassy official…I only hope they found me interesting? I have no doubt in my mind that he was NOT who he claimed to be – well it makes for a good story doesn’t it…

The Secret Intelligence Service: – better known as MI6, whose headquarters is adjacent to Vauxhall Bridge on the South Bank. Now an iconic building since its appearances in several James Bond films, especially when it gets blown up. But not surprisingly, it’s not as accessible as the Embassy of the United States of America as I walk past it’s high rise perimeter wall surrounded by cameras pointing in every possible direction.

Directly overhead there are two chinook helicopters looking to land: probably nothing to do with either the American Embassy or MI6, but their low flying downdraft adds to the mysterious and secretive nature of these two buildings.

Albert Embankment

I continue walking easterly and I’m soon reminded that Old Father Thames pops up everywhere symbolised in several sculptures along the way. The first I see is back along Nine Elms Riverbank where the artist, Stephen Duncan has depicted the demigod amidst his watery cohorts. And the second is a bronzed relief in the Sturgeons Lamp Posts that adorn the embankment. These lamp posts were designed by the Victorian architect George John Vulliamy.

Regular readers will know I have a view on modern architecture, and today is no different. I appreciate architects need to be creative, adventurous and bold when designing buildings, but would you like to live in a 25 storey concrete tube as depicted by these modern (?) assisted living apartments. And the price of such privilege – oh yes…nearly £3,000 per week!

A little further along, I see these intriguing seating areas created to reflect a type of working boat no doubt associated with Lambeth’s history, and their symbolic significance is revealed as I turn into Black Prince Road. The site is the location of London’s White Hart Dock, one of the City’s many docks and slipways: this one dating back to the 14th Century. The location also marks, rather sadly, Lambeth’s Cholera Epidemic where, in the mid 19th Century, at least 1618 residents perished of the disease. The epidemic here was also the trigger for the discovery by Dr John Snow that Cholera is a water borne disease.

Further along the embankment, my walk leads me past the former Headquarters of the London Fire Brigade, a glorious and imposing art deco building, which will soon be redeveloped into flats and house the London Fire Brigade museum.

And finally, a jaunt past the International Maritime Organisation, part of the United Nations, which displays its maritime link through this imposing sculpture of a ship’s bow protruding out of the front of the building. It is known as the International Seafarers Memorial.

Pictures of the Day

I have several contenders for today’s picture, but this one of the ‘Talking Heads’ gets the vote. I took several shots of each of the two heads at intervals to create an animation showing the different facial expressions. But this one, with both in shot, helps to set the scene. The heads are in metallic black, and the white LED’s help to complement the effect. So I’ve added a black and white filter to this shot to show it off at its best

Settings: Camera – Canon EOS 200D; Aperture – ƒ6.3; Shutter Speed – 1/400; Focal Length – 125mm; Film Speed – ISO400; Google Photo Filter – Vogue

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